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Hammered Rivets: Six points, the hard way

After the Thorns match we take a brief look at happenings off the pitch.

Bennett Dewan

The Thorns hosted winless Sky Blue for a mid-week match. The 2-1 result was satisfying even if the Thorns were not dominant on the score sheet. After very little rest, it was off to Audi Field to meet the disintegrating Washington Spirit. This match was more dominant for the Thorns in all ways except kicking balls into the net. The 1-0 result was the minimum requirement for the Thorns to have a shot for a home playoff match. The match extended the Spirit’s losing streak to ten matches and their scoring drought to thirteen.

Neither match was particularly entertaining, but there was a highlight moment on Wednesday. A random action by a fan became a stadium-wide bonding moment. Perhaps this will become an every-game thing – we will see at the next match. Take a look at the thread below where Abby explains what happened (and other folks contribute videos of the stadium lit up like a constellation).

The north end crowd was initially confused, but quickly took up the cause. Then the drum corps jumped in with Queen’s We Will Rock You. Spontaneous shows of support in the stands are often the best kind, if rare.

Another highlight happened post-game after the rose ceremony. Chants of “Edie, Edie” were met with a Mark Parsons gesture that his daughter was home asleep. So, in lieu of Edie, Meghan Klingenberg “helped” a kneeling Christine Sinclair lead the traditional final cheer with her rose.

There were lowlights in both matches involving the opposing goalkeeper. Emily Sonnett got her bell rung with a two-handed punch in the face from Kailen Sheridan. Fortunately, Sonnett was somehow able to resume play.

This has to be a photographer’s dream - an instant classic!
Bennett Dewan

Hayley Raso was not so lucky in Washington. A far more tame-looking collision with Audrey Bledsoe left Raso in pain and eventually in the hospital where she remains. It looked like she took a knee in the lower back, and Stumptown Footy has received confirmation that she has suffered a broken back.

Caitlin Foord

Did you know that the Riveters have regional support groups? Several non-Oregon places root for the Thorns. The Montana Volunteers hold watch parties across that state and meet up for community support activities. They have their own scarves and banner, and now a patch, all displayed before the Sky Blue match.

For the curious, a “Merritt Badge” is a patch that Riveters can collect for participating in activities such as attending away matches and helping community organizations. Some folks have an entire sash full of these.

The Numbers

The Thorns drew a very respectable 17,986 for a late-start midweek game. Our attendance is down 4.6% versus 2017. A sellout for the finale would bring the total season attendance to 4.4% off last year. The match in Washington drew 7,976 which is nearly 50% more than the Spirit’s previous best.

Earlier in the season, I generated an attendance metric called the “PTFC Effect”, to measure the attendance bump that teams experience when Portland comes to town. For 2017, this was +12.9%, with six of the nine teams bringing in more fans for a Portland match than for their average home match. Now that the Thorns’ 2018 road games are all played, we can calculate this year’s number. Five of the eight opponents had bigger gates for Portland. Across the entire league, Portland road games drew 23.2% more fans than average for the venue. The mystique of the Thorns is real and growing, even outside Portland.

A major factor dragging on Portland’s attendance is the schedule. We had seven non-weekend matches this year, versus only one in 2017. As it turned out, the mid-week matches were actually well-attended in Portland - it was the Friday evening games that suffered. This was true for all teams. Note to the schedulers for 2019: no Friday night games!

Other teams had a similar experience. Chicago Red Stars fans seem to be particularly fussy about the schedule, while Seattle, Utah, and Houston fans don’t seem to care when the matches are played. In each time slot, I have highlighted the most negative case except for Sunday evening, which didn’t really have one.

League attendance has been trending upward the past few weeks. It now stands at 13.3% higher than 2017, with a total of 597,530 butts in seats. Three teams have completed their home seasons: Seattle, Houston, and Orlando. Several of the bigger-attendance markets have one match to go, including Portland, Salt Lake City, and Cary, NC.

The Thorns-Spirit match was broadcast on ESPNews. Despite all the Portland fans jamming the bars in town, the broadcast failed to break into the top 150 for the day. Perhaps at the end of the season the league or networks will release their numbers and then we’ll know how things are going. Certainly not gangbusters, though.

Up Next

We now have a two-week FIFA break. The USA (Heath, Horan, Sonnett, Franch) will be hosting two friendlies on the West Coast versus Chile. Canada (Sinclair) plays Brazil (Andressinha). Switzerland (Crnogorcevic) plays UEFA qualifiers against Scotland and Poland. Australia has no matches scheduled.

After that, on September 7th, the Thorns host the Seattle Reign in the biggest match of the season. If the Thorns win, they will finish second and will host Seattle again the following weekend for the semi-final. If they draw, we finish 3rd and face the Reign in Seattle. With a loss, the Thorns could finish either third or fourth, dependent on Chicago’s result, and would have to make a trip to Seattle or North Carolina respectively.

Seattle matches are always spicy, but this time the Scoville measure is in the millions.

It’s time to vote for the Riveters Player of the Year award. Some Riveters are promoting Christine Sinclair, who has never won this recognition in her six years anchoring the Thorns.

Onward Rose City!